The Nickelback Challenge

Chronologically "reviewing" Nickelback's discography, one song per week

Week 22: “Hold Out Your Hand” - The State (1998)

I’ll be honest. At this point in The Challenge, it’s rather difficult coming up with snarky things to say about these Nickelback tunes. For the most part, they’re not to my taste and the music sounds expectedly trite, but I can’t shit on them too much because I get why people like this garbage. I fully know what to expect each week, and that’s what makes these posts hard to write. Motivation is waning. Meh.

Alas, because this thing has been going for 22 damn weeks and we only have one more track on Nickelback’s underwhelming second album, I’m aware that a part of this challenge is perseverance. Keep on keepin’ on. 

So I’ll just let this week’s song speak for itself.

"Hold Out Your Hand"

Tell me what you think. I’m going to listen to music that’s little more inspiring. 

Week 21: “Not Leavin’ Yet” - The State (1998)

From here on out, this will be the generic, automated post for the weeks when listening to this band makes me want to scream in the faces of toddlers and break my own fingers.

"I listened to a Nickelback song this week and it sucked.”

Such is the case for this week’s track, “Not Leavin’ Yet.”

Good day.

Week 20: “One Last Run” - The State (1998)

Seconds away from quitting this dreadful, horrific weekly experience, my friend (who prefers to be called “Skinny Pete”) has kindly lent out a helping hand, thus saving me from self-sabotage and inspiring me to continue The Challenge.

"…Maybe it’ll be good," he says.

Well, Skinny Pete, we’ll see.

Skinny Pete guest reviews this week:

"One Last Run"

"Eh, sounds like Foo Fighters. It seems like the producer didn’t know what notes Chad Kroeger should hit during the verse so he just figured, ‘ah, I’ll just slap a chorus effect on the vocals.’ Kroeger sure sounds unsure about what notes he wants to hit in the verse…The vocals are trying to sound like Silverchair’s first record. I’m pretty sure they don’t play that song live…I would love to see an acoustic performance of him trying to sing that verse.”

Bottom line - reeks of 90s and there are plenty of “unsure” vocals. Typical.

Thanks, Skinny.

Oh well - we made it through another week. To help get through the doldrums of a particularly slow week on The Nickelback Challenge, there’s thankfully plenty of Nickelback meme-age and YouTube fodder. For instance, here’s proof that Nickelback is, in fact, racist!

Week 19: “Deep” - The State (1998)

Who says Nickelback can’t create an atmosphere?

For “Deep,” the mid-tempo rocker on the tail end of The State, Nickelback did a fantastic job musically painting a vivid visual image in the listener’s mind.

Close your eyes and listen to the track. Can you see the dimly lit hole-in-the-wall bar, sparsely populated with plump patrons, with the median age being 47? Of course you do. As you order your cheap beer, the song plays, and few people actually pay attention; it’s understandable - they all had long days and overdue bills to pay and they find comfort staring into their drinks, sipping, and repeating the pattern.

Next to you is a thirtysomething woman who was probably hot a decade ago. She’s drunkenly swaying to Nickelback’s steady riffage and backbeat, closing her eyes in order to “feel” the music more. She let’s out a few “woos!” and holds her Miller Lite high above her downturned head as a symbol of rock appreciation, but in the process, 30% of it splashes on your shoulder. She drunkenly apologizes but you can’t hear her drowned speech over Chad Kroeger’s “YEEHs” and the detuned, muddy, distorted mess coming from the 4” platformed stage in the bar’s corner.

Fed up with the clientele and the extremely average performance of the band, you make your way out to the bar, stepping through the sticky floor. Emerging from the door to the gravel parking lot, you’re reminded that it’s only 6:30 and you squint from the light outside, happy to leave Nickelback behind.

Alas, Nickelback can create an atmosphere, albeit one that nobody wants to be in.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

Mood After Listen: Sticky

Week 18: “Diggin’ This” - The State (1998)

Reaching over the halfway mark on The State, we’ve arrived at “Diggin’ This.” The title alone is just atrocious (kinda sounds like a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher), so let’s see if the song goes anywhere.

“Diggin’ This”

As I suspected, the song insufferable. Pure filler material. Nothing to say about it really…

The guitar’s distortion sounds like detuned flatulence. The bass’s usage of a phase pedal is questionable…although using effects like this in nu metal-inspired music was cool back in history times. And the guitar solo has AIDS.

Not diggin’ it.

K, bye.*

Arbitrary Rating: 2/10. The only thing worse than chart-topping single Nickelback is filler Nickelback.

Mood After Listen: Sucky.

*Sorry for the terseness this week. This is what The Challenge does to people - creates cynicism; for the love of God, don’t attempt to do anything like this yourself…Creed Challenge or something…forget that shit.

Week 17: “Worthy to Say” - The State (1998)

Ever have those days where every little thing becomes an annoyance? Of course you do. Today, probably because it’s hotter than the devil’s nutsack in downtown Los Angeles, I’ve become irritable and a slave to the sweltering summer heat. Sucker punching me while I’m down is the fact that it’s Wednesday and I have to listen to fucking Nickelback.

Defeated but not willing to throw in the towel quite yet, I’m continuing the challenge this week. Let’s get it over with.

Here’s “Worthy to Say,” the third single off The State. Woo.

Okay, some delayed, panned guitars…electronic drums…kind of a stoner, psychedelic vibe. Unexpected and a first for Nickelback, the droney, loose intro doesn’t sound too shabby.

Onto the chorus though, those reverberated layers clean up and in comes Nickelback’s standard sound. Right. Despite the irksome and sharp sonic contrast between the verse and chorus, you can hear something surprising in the chorus. It’s easy to miss, but on the second half of the chorus, you hear a cool little acoustic guitar line panned to the right speaker. Could this be Nickelback introducing a smidgen of subtlety to their music?

Moving on…right, the guys are cycling between the verse and chorus several more times and, uh oh…a capella Chad Kroeger! Yikes. The song plods on and ends with an outro of the electronic drumbeat.

All in all, that wasn’t too painful of an experience. Here, Nickelback is experimenting with a wider array of effects and styles, having somehow managed to insert something musically interesting into the mix. But given the unevenness between the verses and choruses, you can tell the band is still in its relative infancy.

I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by this track though.

Arbitrary Rating: 7.9/10 - Props to the subtle acoustic guitar line and experimentation attempt.

Mood After Listen: Oddly focused.

Week 16: “Old Enough” - The State (1998)

Since I left you last week, our favorite Nickelband released a surprisingly good music video (featuring Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander exuding pure awesomeness…the song blows but the video is great) and out of nowhere, we’ve learned that Chad Kroeger is going to marrying Avril Lavigne, a union of which will likely produce an onslought of overproduced power ballads and trite songs about skateboarding. The couple’s demon spawn will be in the form of a new Lavigne record that Kroeger apparently helped write and produce. I’ll go record saying that that shit is going nowhere near the Nickelback Challenge. Nowhere near!

Anyway. Back to reality and back to this week’s track.

Here’s “Old Enough.”

Not too bad…exploring a more droney sound during the intro. Kinda cool. Nothing too much to say about the track other than it’s a solid tune. Don’t love it, don’t hate it.

I think now that I’m fully committed to this challenge and I’ve exposed myself to an amount of Nickelback that’s probably going to give me onset diabetes, I’ve come to understand what to expect from Nickelback and I’m becoming less disgusted with their brand of rock.

It’s like if you go and see Stallone and the army of badasses in The Expendables - you know going into it that you’re not going to see Oscar-worthy performances and a creative plot with subtle, rich character development; no, you’re going get explosions, guns, testosterone and corny one-liners. You know that before you even buy your ticket, so you’re not disappointed when the movie doesn’t live up to a Cohen Brothers standard.

Same is the case here; I’ve come to not expect a performance on par with Zeppelin. I’m not expecting to be intrigued by harmonic counterpoint. It’s simply straightforward hard rock music and millions of people apparently like it. I’ll never be fan, but I can appreciate that Kroeger at least seems more confident in his songwriting abilities at this point on the band’s second record. And I guess after writing songs like this for over 10 years, he got good enough to rake in millions of dollars, collaborate with pop stars and buy them 14-carat engagement blings.

Short song. Short post. Peace.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

Mood After Listen: So-so.

Week 15: “Leader of Men” - The State (1998)

All right. Finally, we have something to work with! I don’t want to get you all too excited, but this week, we’ve reached a tipping point. The second track off The Canadian Territory…I mean, The State, is Nickelback’s first hit single (!!), which apparently peaked in the Top 10 on some U.S. Modern Rock chart in 2000. This is Nickelback’s seepage into the mainstream. We’re witnessing Nickelback tightly squeezing out of Canada’s vagina, crowning and popping out, followed by musical afterbirth.

The concept: the band plays a little jam in an interrogation room. There’s a riot outside. The band decides to lug their gear outside, find a suitable power source and hold a rehearsal (or performance, whatever) in the middle of a stampeding crowd, and getting pummeled with tear gas/high-powered hoses. 

The song is boring and I’ll let the video speak for itself. Think it’s worthy of a hit?

Isn’t it kind of interesting though? In the video, Nickelback valliantly continues to rock in the midst of a riot. The band implies that they will continue rocking no matter what chaos and violence is thrown their way or how many people tell them they suck. They are Nickelback and they need to bring on the mothafuckin’ rock, even though the rioters and authorities would rather not have an alt. rock band getting in the way. Fast forward 10 or so years and that’s exactly what they’ve done - continue to do whatever the hell they want, show a respectable display of resilience, and get retardedly successful off it. For that, you gotta give them a little respect.

Mood After Listen: Been better.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10. I’ll give the guys a pat on the back for landing their first radio hit. 

Week 14: “Cowboy Hat” - The State (1998)

I’ll keep this post brief mostly because time doesn’t permit and I can’t imagine that a song called “Cowboy Hat” will be any good. Some weeks you gotta trudge along and get through those pesky tasks that you’d rather not do, like laundry. This Nickelback Challenge is turning into the equivalent of doing my damn laundry. Actually, I prefer doing my laundry over this…

 Shit. Well let’s get it over with.

"Cowboy Hat"

Off the bat the song is slightly different; here we have the first instance on record of an acoustic guitar, plus a flavor that’s not entirely reeking of late 90s alternative rock - a country flavor. Okay. You have a downtuned acoustic guitar picking through a country-inspired riff. And then, you guessed it, in come the distorted guitars, as Nickelback is wont to do. It’s nice that Nickelback wanted to channel a little of its inner Skynyrd, but other than the acoustic, the song pretty much operates in the usual fashion as it moves on.

I’ll highlight a few instances that hint that Nickelback probably started to figure out what they were doing. Namely, there’s more use of vocal harmonies and an overall more dynamic approach to the music - plenty of starts and stops, pauses, and a short acoustic interlude. Not terribly executed ideas. Shows progress, I’ll say.

But the thing that makes you realize, “Oh yeah, this is Nickelback and this is shitty,” is the WTF? moment at 1:58 with a drum fill saturated in god knows what equalization/flange effect. Who green lit that? 

Overall, the song has little cohesion in its attempt to mix up the style, but at least it signifies that the band was trying to get a little more creative in terms of songwriting and production. Thus, I’m given hope that I’ll have something a little more interesting to listen to in the weeks to come. Woo.

Mkay. My laundry is done now. Loosely folded and thrown into my closet. I should be good for another week.

Mood After Listen: Aight.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10 - Songs are gettin’ a little (a little) better.

Week 13: “Breathe” - The State (1998)

All right. We’re back with the first track off Nickelback’s second record, "The State." I’ll admit I’m a tad optimistic to keep The Challenge going, but then again, it’s possible I’m just generally in a better mood because I haven’t listened to any Nickelback for a good two weeks now, having taken last week off.

A few people (The Nickelbackers) have expressed that “The State” more or less the band’s finest album. Supposedly, it’s heavier, the riffs are more interesting, there’s less gag-inducing balladry, and the songwriting is more creative overall.

Duly noted, but I’m skeptical.

Self-released in 1998 and re-released in 2000, “The State” apparently showcases a slightly more mature side of the band in a time before they became mainstream rock juggernauts and a general punch line to shitty modern rock music jokes.

Maybe “The State” will actually be impressive. Or maybe the record will be so bad that upcoming 11 weeks it takes me to complete it will be akin to discovering that a loved one has inoperable rectal cancer, goes through painstaking chemo, ends up in hospice and dies a slow, silent death. And then Nickelback is played at the funeral.

Oh well. Time will tell. Here we go with "Breathe"

Whelp…first impression, it’s generally better than anything off ”Curb” and the production is cleaner and defined. Although nothing out-of-the-ordinary occurs in terms of song structure, it seems that Chad Kroeger has a better handle at writing catchy melody. There’s a (slightly) better incorporation of dynamic elements and it looks like Nickelback has even discovered what a ‘rest’ symbol signifies in music notation.

Plus, a first, there’s a talkbox like effect in the beginning, and believe it or not, my ears ACTUALLY perked up when the bass line moves underneath the introductory guitar riffs. I kinda like the vocal hook too…Christ, what’s wrong with me?

Arbitrary Rating: 7.5/10. Not gonna lie…I don’t hate it. I mean, it’s no "Bohemian Rhapsody" but I’ve definitely heard worse. 

Mood After Listen: Surprisingly okay. This is weird. Maybe I should see a doctor…